Australia has bolstered its popularity as a world class education destination with new data showing international student numbers soared by 15 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to 2016.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the surging international student numbers came on top of growth of around 10.5 per cent since the Coalition Government came to power in 2013.

Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government was committed to supporting the sustainable growth of the international education sector and protecting the strong practical measures outlined in the country’s first National Strategy for International Education 2025.

“In 2016 Australia hosted a record number of international students as more than 550,000 students from over 190 different nations flocked to our shores,” Minister Birmingham said. 

“The Turnbull Government recognises the importance of our international education system and has reversed the damage done by the previous Labor Government’s erratic changes to student visas that resulted in billions of dollars of damage to the international education sector.

“Our international education system is critical in Australia’s economic prosperity as we continue to transition from an economy built on the success of the mining and construction boom to an economy based on knowledge, services and innovation.”

Minister Birmingham said the first three months of data captured students commencing higher education in the first semester of 2017, as well as students commencing full year courses in vocational education and training and in schools.

“We are on track to see another record year for Australian international education,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Building on Australia’s reputation as a world-class international education offering, various geopolitical factors create new possibilities for Australia to maximise our share of the growing number of students who are travelling from all over the world to study.”

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke said that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had received more than 111,000 student visa applications in the first quarter of 2017, up from around 94,000 for the same period in 2016.   

“This is a significant increase compared to the same time in the previous year and symbolises the efforts Australia has undertaken to attract international students,” Minister Hawke said.

“All education sectors had experienced growth in international students during the first quarter of 2017 – the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students sector (ELICOS) grew by almost 38 per cent, the Higher Education sector by almost 23 per cent and the VET sector by almost 13 per cent.”

Minister Birmingham said the new data coincided with today’s release of education export income results by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, confirming a record $22.4 billion added to the Australian economy in 2016 from international education, with positive contributions shared across all states and territories.

“International education is our third largest export after iron ore and coal and continues to play a vital role in our national economic and social prosperity,” Minister Birmingham said.